According to the Gospel of Punk, first there was The Sex Pistols & The Clash and the rest followed. The first of those bands from outside London were Buzzcocks. They even promoted the famous Free Trade Hall Sex Pistols gig in Manchester in 1976 which spawned a plethora of bands from the small gathering that attended. Thirty-seven years later and Buzzcocks are headlining this year’s ME1 – Music Event One festival in Medway, following once more in the footsteps of Johnny Rotten who led his merry men in an assault on Rochester Castle last year with his latest incarnation of Pil.
The concept behind Music Event One is simple – pay for one ticket to a day of music in several locations in and around the Rochester Medway ME1 postcode. Throughout the day local bands played well known music venues the Eagle Tavern, Nags Head, Ye Arrow & Man Of Kent – before Buzzcocks headlined the main event at the Casino Rooms supported by Chris Pope’s The Chords, Dexters and local hero Prisoners-cum-Prime Movers-cum-Forefathers frontman Graham Day, with a new name for a familiar beat combo – Simon ‘Wolf’ Howard on drums, Alan Crockford on bass and Graham Day on guitar and vocals blasting out psychedelic-singed garage rock to an enthusiastic audience.
The Casino Rooms is best known as a club venue playing various strains of commercial dance music. I don’t know of any other rock music gigs held there and was impressed with the size of the main room, thinking it would be a great place to have regular gig nights in the heart of the Medway Towns. But as soon as Graham Day & the Forefathers began their set it was apparent the sound was far from perfect. Everything seemed muffled, like a big ball of fluff was caught under the stylus of a long playing record of a gramophone-cum-sideboard. The band played on regardless to the applause of the crowd around the front of the stage who weren’t going to let it spoil their enjoyment. Though my thoughts were shared by fans and members of the band alike, who told me the on-stage monitors were giving them a similar poor experience.
The crowd swelled slightly for the arrival of Buzzcocks but sadly the room looked less than half-full. No pussyfooting around, they launched straight into Boredom. The crowd applauded and a small moshpit of forty-something’s began to relive their youth. Good spirits, great songs but sad to say, the sound remained appalling. Several times the music, vocals or both dropped out. But the band played on, lead by the enthusiastic, lively Steve Diggle and the somewhat more subdued but happy Pete Shelley. The two original members shared lead vocals and guitar duties along with smiles and interaction with their fans as they blasted through classic songs at breakneck Ramones speed. Ever Fallen in Love, Harmony in my Head, Noise Annoys, Love You More… the set list seemed endless.
Steve Diggle has aged well with his hair dye and Pete Townsend windmills, he jumped around the stage while Pete Shelley with his grey hair and Cheshire cat smile kept rooted to the spot. I couldn’t help thinking he needed a pint of whatever Diggle was drinking!
After the Buzzcocks, the Tap n Tin & Function Rooms offered more for those who wanted to dance the night away. Over 25 bands and DJs played in and around Rochester High Street – all for the price of £22.50.
Two years in and I really respect what the organisers of Music Event One are trying to achieve. The population of the Medway Towns, its musical heritage and the students at the local college and universities should make it a hot bed for bigger music gigs and events with top headliners. But it appears they are still facing a certain level of apathy, which is nothing new. Last August the same promoters arranged The Cribs to play at the Function Rooms as a low-key warm-up to festival appearances. It was a sell-out and a great success. The crowd was noticeably much younger and very enthusiastic. Maybe more bands like this and at a time which doesn’t clash with other music events is the only way that ME1 festival will survive and sell enough tickets in future.
It was great to see Buzzcocks. Shame the sound let them and everyone who paid to see them, down.